Originally: Interview with Andre Apaid
Our guest this morning is Andre Apaid, Jr. of the Group of 184 Civil Society Organizations (G-184). Good morning, Mr Apaid.
(Apaid) Good morning, Rotchild, and good morning to all Radio Metropole listeners.
(Francois) We notice that the situation is extremely difficult now, and the G-184 is pursuing its visits to the provinces to promote the social contract. Why such an initiative now?
(Apaid) First of all, I agree with you that we are undergoing a period of suffering, terror, disgust, discouragement, and such helplessness that a lot of people have lost confidence in themselves and in our capacity to get out of this situation. So, I agree with you that this is a very serious situation that concerns all of us. Nevertheless, because of this situation, we in the G-184 feel the necessity to continue the work that we have started. Many people are now asking, what is the point of such an effort in the midst of such violence and terror? But I can tell you that after visiting all nine departments, I found out that the country, for the most part, is expecting something. Here in Port-au-Prince, we are in the face of a very special situation.
(Francois) About the current situation in the capital, could you explain briefly your opinion on the kidnapping phenomenon? And do you have an idea of how this problem could be resolved?
(Apaid) You may have noticed that this is done sometimes with a series of well coordinated waves. This means that, for instance, you can spend eight to 10 days without hearing anything about kidnapping, and then suddenly a wave of kidnapping is carried out. I have no doubt that some sectors are doing this for commercial reasons or things like that. But most of the violence that we are undergoing today comes from these people that were armed by the former dictator (Jean-Bertrand Aristide). Now, I know that it will be very difficult for Mr Valdes (Juan Gabriel, chief of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti) to rectify what I just said. He did not want to say so, but I am saying so for him.
It is clear that it is the armed branch of the Lavalas party, the armed sectors of the Lavalas party that are sponsoring the violence for the most part. They are the ones that are sponsoring the kidnapping, preventing hospitals from functioning in poor neighbourhoods, preventing humanitarian organizations from distributing food to the poor in these areas, preventing schools from functioning, and preventing workers from carrying out their daily activities. The kidnapping is mainly a political instrument aimed at reinforcing this terror and bringing despair and discouragement in order to give better political options. Because there is a plan behind all this. I would like to talk about it if you will give me a minute.
(Francois) Please, do.
(Apaid) I think that it is very clear. If you remember what was being done before Rene Preval came to power and during the Preval government, you will see that we were then faced with situations of terror, too, although they are not similar to the current situation. There is no doubt about it. But it was terror controlled by the government at the time to prevent all political parties and all sectors from preparing for the elections.
Three weeks before the elections, then President of the Republic Rene Preval told everybody that he did not see how elections were going to take place in the country. But meanwhile, the Lavalas party was organizing itself right in the midst of the violence to structure its movement and to be the only party to carry out electoral campaigns and to get ready for the elections.
Today, since they are not in control of the government, they no longer have structured control, that is, they do not control the city halls and the deputies that had weapons and all, and the country is somehow in a relatively calm situation, Port-au-Prince is prey to a plan. The plan is to entertain such violence that should unseat and put everybody in a state of helplessness and discouragement.
Meanwhile, the Lavalas grassroots have received clear instructions. They are ordered to register and to get ready to go to elections, as a deputy said yesterday or the day before yesterday. So, these people have received clear instructions. For this reason, we should be clear-minded, because the stake here is for these people to discourage us from participating in the elections as they did in the past. For, they know that 90 percent of the people are ready to do so. So, they are maintaining this situation of terror in Port-au-Prince to discourage us and to prevent electoral campaigns from taking place. So, I believe that this is the plan. Lavalas will participate in the elections but the armed branch of the party will maintain such terror that it will get everybody to doubt the possibility for elections to be held in the country.
Other groups involved
(Francois) Do you think that there are other sectors involved in the acts of kidnapping?
(Apaid) There is no doubt that there are people who are trying to take over some of the Lavalas grassroots. Besides, within the Lavalas party, there are moderate currents, I mean that there are former Lavalas deputies and senators who are trying to regroup. But each time they try to get control of the Lavalas movement for personal purposes, the former dictator (Aristide) and his associate, who is in Venezuela, give instructions to the Lavalas grassroots. They use cell phones to communicate. They even mention the possibility of having some Lavalas members executed. They say it in private.
(Francois) Did you mean (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez when you talked about his associate in Venezuela?
(Apaid) No, I mean Jean-Claude Jean-Baptiste. He was the coordinator of the armed Lavalas gangs. Aristide’s partisans know that very well. This is the reason why they are afraid of taking reasonable and moderate political positions, because they can be assassinated by their own people within the Lavalas Family by order of Jean-Baptiste. I know what I am talking about because this is what they affirm.
I want to be clear that today, the people who want the country’s welfare, which represents 90 per cent of the population, now find themselves at a critical crossroads. Will they let themselves be discouraged and driven onto the reefs or will they have this national uprising to try to save what is left and to create sufficient unity to make a start?
(Francois) Do you think there can be a solution to the kidnapping phenomenon? According to information that is being circulated on the Internet, there are people who propose for the country to be closed for some time so that the authorities including Minustah (UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti) can assume their responsibility to resolve the kidnapping issue. What do you think?
(Apaid) I think this issue should be discussed within an institutional framework that should fully understand what is going on. We have an extremely fragile institutional framework. Let me say it in Creole to ensure that everybody understands what I am saying: we have an institutional framework that is extremely fragile.
We have a consensus of several institutions that were set up among the living forces of the nation to enable us to have a government, a presidency, and a Council of Eminent Persons (COEP) that would allow us to return to the Constitution. But it is an extremely fragile institutional framework. I think that we must be careful not to upset what already exists so that we do not exactly reach the point where the enemies are waiting for us. We need to be very careful each time we have to do something so that we can avoid falling into their trap.
It is imperative for us to remain clear-minded even when we are discouraged. Any effort that can give rise to a disaster will only serve those who do not believe in elections or the democratic process. I do not mean that any kind of elections should take place by all means. But there should be unity that will allow us to lay down the problems of a technical nature as well as preparation that the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is facing to complete its work as rapidly as possible so that elections may take place as soon as possible. We hope that the elections will be able to take place on the set dates, but with acceptable and satisfying results. (passage omitted)
“Nobody is exempt”
(Francois) Concerning the kidnapping phenomenon, what do you think the attitude of the people should be in face of such a situation? Actually, nobody is exempt from it. Everybody in the metropolitan area is scared because of this situation.
(Apaid) People must be very careful. It is not difficult for us to say what I am going to say now without the support of the police. But I would like to make sure that this does not give rise to more chaos. When I talked about a national uprising, I meant the people should stand united to accompany and put pressure on the government, the national police, Minustah, and the international community to prompt them to do their part.
Actually, it is obvious that there is not enough national unity now. The level of unity is not the same as the unity that existed before 29 February (2004). It is somehow the fault of all of us, because the current government is part of our efforts. It is our best institutions and the most moral ones that we got together to give us what we have now, for instance, the Council of Eminent Persons, the government, and the other institutions. So, I think that we all have our share of the responsibility.
I think that not only are we called to greater unity but also to a greater national uprising that is energized by unshakeable determination. And this, so that when the first signs of cohesion are displayed in the coming days, I hope from the international community as well as from the national police that citizens in each neighbourhood will arrange to block the roads to these criminal activities within their neighbourhoods.
Therefore, as I said I wish to be careful here, because I would rather accompany what I am saying with coordination with the state authorities. I am not asking for the people to create vigilance brigades to block the roads. But somehow, the citizens will have to block the roads and set up barricades in agreement with the police to block bandits’ access. The police will have to set up checkpoints in different areas of the city. So far, the police have tried to do so on several occasions but they withdraw afterwards for certain reasons. (passage omitted)
(Francois) According to reports, there are policemen that are involved in kidnapping. Moreover, the people you are talking about earn a living from kidnapping, according to reporting.
(Apaid) And I can tell you that this phenomenon will be reinforced. (passage omitted) the former regime had issued warnings. The former regime distributed arms during and also after its departure. Yesterday, I was told that weapons were discovered in a remote area of Petit-Goave. The police found a group of people that had received weapons long before Aristide’s departure.
What happens is this. We were told (by Aristide) that in case he would have to leave the country there would be darkness night and day. They distributed weapons that would be able to keep us hostage for at least 30 years. Now they are preventing people from opening hospitals in the poor neighbourhoods where the armed gangs of the violent branch of the Lavalas party live.
They are preventing humanitarian organizations from distributing food to the people in these areas. They are preventing schools from functioning in these poor areas. They are also preventing workers from going to work. They are causing manufacturers to close their factories. They kidnap, burn (people, cars, and homes), kill, and steal in the name of the former dictator.
Meanwhile, these people who are entertaining this violence give orders to their grassroots to go and register for the elections. This means that these same people who are feeding the violence are asking their partisans to get ready for the elections. So, the plan is very clear. It is important to understand that all the efforts that we are going to undertake now should bear in mind that there are in front of us 90 per cent of the people who are not ready to participate in the game but that are tempted to survive by keeping silent or by receiving benefits from the Mafia.
So, I think that it is very clear that a citizen who does not have the means to get out of Cite Soleil but who is receiving sacks of flour or rice will be in a position where they have to vote their conscience. This situation is the same as when Jean-Bertrand Aristide used to say to his people, when he was popular, to take the money offered by political candidates but to vote their conscience.
I believe that 90 per cent of the Haitian people today are ready to vote their conscience while they know that what is happening now is not good. Even though some of them do not have any choice and have to live in the midst of this terror just because they profit from the crimes.
I think it will only require willingness on the part of the police and the authorities to go into these places and take control.